By Suzanne Scholte, Seoul Peace Prize Laureate
For over twenty years now, I have had the great honor of working for the freedom and human rights of the North Korean people. As a result of this work, it is not unusual for the North Korean regime to attack me on their propaganda website, Uriminzokkiri. Because I believe that North Koreans are deserving of the same freedom and human rights as South Koreans and Americans, the Kim Jong Un regime has labeled me “a female monkey”, a “dirty miser”, “an ugly political swindler”, “a witch” and other unprintable words. They even depicted me as a kangaroo in a cartoon attacking the annual North Korea Freedom Week when we first hosted it in Seoul.
But in July something happened that went way beyond these typical slurs and attacks. I got this message directly in my email: “To Suzanne Scholte, This is your destiny. You will DIE!! We see you everywhere. We will Kill You. Go home, and Wait Die.” The threat was accompanied by a horrific real photo of a badly mutilated woman’s head. The message and the photo haunted me for a day or two, and I was very ashamed about it and did not want anyone to even know about it. It is something truly rattling to have someone hate you so much to have taken the time to have sent that message and to have taken the energy to search for the most horrific photo to accompany the death threat. I did not want anyone to see the message or the photo for fear they would think of it when they thought of me.
Since the death threat was sent on the same day as other death threats against North Korean defectors, I knew it was from someone acting on behalf of the North Korean regime. And it pained me that someone who does not even know me, could hate me so much simply because I wanted them to be free. I then finally realized how I should respond to this death threat: I prayed to God for this person and I now long for the day when I can meet them in person and tell them how much I love and care about them and that is why I do this work. It is only because they are blocked from the truth by their regime that they could send such a message.
Then, something else happened about a week later: eighteen postcards arrived from South Korea. The death threat from North Korea came on July 7th, but on June 29th, someone in South Korea, who also I do not know, arranged for 18 South Korean young people to send these postcards- all handwritten with illustrations from students in South Korea . All were mailed from Korea on June 29, 2018 from “GY. DEOKYANG” and each of them had the same return address: “South Korea, A letter from Heaven” and the same message ” I love Scholte” and then different notes of encouragement with illustrations, Bible verses, etc. on the reverse side.
One wrote: “The reason I wrote this letter is to give you strength”; another wrote: “Jesus will give you strength All the Time”. Almost all wrote: “Thank you for helping the people of North Korea.”
And I realized that at the same time when someone in North Korea was looking for that horrible photo to send me and preparing a death threat, God was prompting someone in South Korea to encourage these students to send these powerful messages of love and support and prayers for freedom for North Korea and wisdom and strength for me.
It was truly awesome because I do not have any idea who is the North Korean who sent the death threat or who are the South Koreans who sent the postcards? The reason why I decided to write this OPED is because I hope this message will reach them all. These young South Koreans need to know how much their messages meant to me and how the timing was so important. And they all need to know I have the same message for both: I love you, North Koreans and South Koreans.
I choose to stand on the messages in those 18 beautiful “Letters from Heaven” and I hope that one day I can thank the South Koreans in person who sent them, and one day soon I also hope to meet and hug that North Korean who sent a different kind of message, so they will know how much I care about them.
This article was originally published by Munhwa Daily.